In Aubert’s debut novella, the first installment in a series, a young man leaves home to escape familial expectations >and find adventure.
When the story starts, Shand has already departed from his village, lured by the promise of treasures along a shore, which are said to be near a destroyed boat. He leaves his own prized vessel behind and finds a woman barely alive on dry land. He winds up having to kill her, and shortly thereafter, he finds himself being chased by a wily, violent little man that Shand calls a “native.” This situation becomes an amusing battle of will and wit, played out with no dialogue, save for some pained shouts and screams. The scene showcases a unique, engaging feature of Aubert’s prose throughout this tale: he’s able to tell a full story with very little conversation, but without relying on excessive exposition. Indeed, part of the appeal of this book is that it’s difficult to place it in a particular time or location. However, there are hint in the worldbuildings; for example, Shand’s village depends on fishing, and they don’t seem to know much about any villages that are more than a couple of day’s travel in any direction; it’s also revealed that Shand built one of the first plank boats in his primitive village, using bronze and nails. The author also provides vivid descriptions of the rivers and forests that Shand traverses, and his protagonist meets a diverse variety of people in his adventure. Indeed, his home village is populated with many colorful characters, including his cranky but perhaps more practical uncle, Royce, and a lot of people who think that Shand is a little snooty for trying to build a plank boat so large. In places, Aubert’s book almost seems like a Lake Wobegon tale set in some ancient, undefinable time and place. As a result, readers will look forward to future stories by the author.
A simple plot and sharply focused characters makes this a very satisfying tale.